After months of hide and seek, the presidency last week laid to rest speculations that former president Goodluck Jonathan is on his way to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, where the presidential ticket has already been reserved for him. It categorically stated that President Muhammadu Buhari has no hand in plot by some stakeholders in the party to bring in Jonathan and lure him into the presidential race for the 2023 general elections as being speculated.
Some of the supporters of the former president had a fortnight ago said Jonathan has the full backing of President Buhari to join the APC, adding that everything has been perfected to ensure he becomes the party’s presidential flagbearer.
However, speaking with our correspondent, a senior presidential aide who asked not to be named said while President Buhari has great respect for Jonathan owing to the manner he handled the outcome of the 2015 presidential election by graciously accepting defeat and congratulating him (Buhari) despite pressures from some of his loyalists to do otherwise, Buhari does not want him to succeed him in 2023.
“It is pure mischief for anyone to say President Buhari is the one behind the move by some politicians to draft the former president into the party and make him contest the 2023 presidential election. Far from it! The Buhari I know will never make moves to allow Jonathan, a man he heavily criticised for mismanaging the affairs of the country while he held sway as president to take over from him. Doing so will reverse all the gains the administration has recorded since 2015.
“For us in the presidency, one thing is very clear. President Buhari holds his predecessor in very high esteem as a true statesman due to the manner he handled the outcome of the presidential election in 2015. Nobody believed that a ruling party with a sitting president which controls the security agencies and even INEC can lose the presidential election. When that happened, some enemies of Nigeria who had earlier predicted doomsday that the country will cease to exist in 2015 asked him not to accept the outcome. He rejected their entreaties and called President Buhari to congratulate him.
“Even though President Buhari was not happy with the way Jonathan managed the affairs of the country, his being gracious in defeat really touched Buhari especially when you compare what Jonathan did with what some African leaders such as Laurent Gbagbo and Yahya Jammeh did in Cote D’ivoire and Gambia respectively.
“Also, this government has had its shortcomings and made some mistakes but you will not see Jonathan writing letters or publicly criticising the government just to score cheap political points. Rather, he knows he has free access to Aso Villa to see President Buhari and share his thoughts privately with him. These are the two reasons President Buhari greatly admires the former president.
“But saying President Buhari is working behind the scenes to lure him into the APC and impose him party members as presidential candidate is pure mischief. Buhari believed that Jonathan’s performance as president was below par and that was why he joined hands with other like minds to oust him from office in 2015. Having laid a solid foundation for growth and continuity, he will not allow the progress made so far to be reversed by bringing the same Jonathan back to succeed him in 2023. That can never happen.”
Jonathan who lost the 2015 presidential election to Buhari has severed his ties with his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 2019. He never supported the PDP governorship candidate in the Bayelsa governorship election while his mother and his kinsmen also celebrated the victory of the APC in the election.
The court however upturned the victory of APC’s candidate, David Lyon, and Douye Diri of PDP was sworn in as the governor.
Since then the leadership of the APC led by the former national caretaker committee chairman, Governor Mai Maa Buni, and several groups, especially in the Northern part of the country have been mounting pressures on Jonathan to join the APC.
Those behind the move, according to Daily Independent findings are some Northern powerbrokers in the APC who believe that since the clamour for a power shift to the Southern part of the country in 2023 is so intense, Jonathan should be considered as he can only serve one term, having served out his first term from 2011 to 2015.
Their calculation is that while other presidential aspirants in the South such as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Rotimi Amaechi will want to serve two terms if elected president, Jonathan upon serving out a term will hand over to another northerner in 2027.
Few days ago, some protesters had stormed Jonathan’s office in Abuja asking him to without further delay join the presidential race. In his response, Jonathan said he cannot tell them that he will run, noting that the Political process is still unfolding.
“I cannot tell you I’m declaring, because the Political process is ongoing. Just watch out. But the key role you must play is that you must pray that Nigeria get somebody that will carry the young people along, somebody that can also work very hard to see that some of the problems you are talking about are dealt with by the government. I think collectively we will work together, I thank all of you.”
Also speaking on calls on Jonathan to contest the 2023 presidential election, National Leader of pan- Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said those behind the move are irresponsible and unpatriotic people who do not mean well for the country.
According to him, Jonathan as an elder statesman should have rejected the calls outrightly rather than tell those calling on him to run that he was still consulting and will soon make his position known.
“Such people calling on Jonathan to contest again are irresponsible and unpatriotic. It will be irresponsible on the part of Jonathan to think of considering such request at all. It is very irresponsible and unpatriotic.
“Jonathan should know better because South East people have not had their turn. It is wrong for Jonathan, who should be a statesman to have told those urging him to contest that he would consider their request.
“I watched him on television telling them that he would consider their request. He should not have told them that because he should know that South South had had their turn and it is now the turn of South East.
“It is unpatriotic for him to even tell them that he would consider their call. This is because he is seen as an elder statesman and should know better” Adebanjo said.
On his part, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, said it will be obnoxious to have Jonathan imposed on other aspirants as the APC consensus presidential candidate.
“We have a big problem on our hands from what I am hearing that some northern groups, especially governors are trying to push Jonathan as a consensus candidate. Everybody is shouting and expressing their displeasure at that. It is obnoxious to have a man like Jonathan imposed on APC as a consensus candidate.”